Brass Valley: The Fall of an American Industry

Brass Valley: The Fall of an American Industry
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Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Times Revenge

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL - Where do our ancestors go when the past has been vandalized, disfigured and spoiled? At the end of the landing I pushed open a door and looked hesitantly into another room. From here to the river is farmland. The same families farmed here in the 18th century. Most of them rest in a cemetery nearby.

Amid the hall's gloom I stood on a pile of something, I wasn't sure what, preferred not to look, stuff. Stuff and clutter made it hard to stabilize the tripod. If I was careful not to move, the tripod would be still. I focused into the room toward a rusty box spring piled with soiled clothing and farther on into an empty closet. An old television lay on its side and a window fan. I bet it got hot in there on summer nights. But the picture wouldn't resolve.

I pivoted to look around the room. Still standing on the uneven mess, I reset the tripod, poking the leg deep to get to solid floor. Once it was absolutely solid I exposed the series of nine photographs that make up this image. Whoever lived here last left in a hurry. Now it's abandoned and left to fall. Is this the image of the present overrunning the past? Is this how it always looks when the new wave rolls over the old? I was pleased at the thought of the image my exposures would make. I reached down to fold my tripod and noticed among the trash I'd been standing on a hugely oversized, manila envelope, "PHOTOGRAPHIC IMAGES HANDLE WITH CARE"; the return address included the name of a saint and the word, "Hospital." It's the kind of envelope one doesn't want to have. In it were the answers to questions long moot, and I dared not look inside. I shouldered my tripod and hurried down the stairs. I was suddenly uncertain who really was doing the haunting. Then I saw another shot and redeployed the tripod legs.